A gay dragon maid! My kingdom for a gay dragon maid!
Or, in which I briefly talk about all that I watched last month. Not sure if this will be a permanent fixture, but for now let’s take it nice and easy. Do note that I’m behind on most airing shows so perhaps I’m taking it easier than most. I may or may not be blaming Infinite Fall’s whimsical homecoming romp Night in the Woods for that.
An-y-wheeere~ Just not heeeeere~♪
Miss Kobayashi’s Dragon Maid (#1-8)
Despite the buzz on my twitter timeline I had been reluctant to enter the dragons’ den, but an arresting aside seized my attention and refused to let it go (“what happens when you’re not like everyone else?” – “you’re ostracized”). This resulted in my not just gingerly placing a foot inside, but rushing in with reckless abandon. While Dragon Maid certainly is amusing in its own right through a portrayal of mythical entities struggling as they come to grips with present day earth and its modern curiosities, beneath the show’s effortless comedic stylings a rich multi-layered foundation fashioned out of queer individuals finding each other can be found. Every episode depicting Tohru and Kobayashi opening up to each other a little more makes my heart swell, thoughtful direction highlighting emerging affections as they draw ever-closer emotionally and physically. With li’l sweetheart Kanna acting as their surrogate daughter, they make for one of the sweetest animated families around – although the couple blissfully living in domestic nerdom might just give them a run for their money! True to Kyoto Animation’s affecting model, everybody loves somebody. As an aside, if all goes as planned I should have a write-up focusing on Tohru and Kobayashi’s relationship up later this month.
Shouwa Genroku Rakugo Shinjuu: Sukeroku Futatabi-hen (#5-7)
As rakugo slips into its twilight years, the ghosts drifting around the margins of its fleeting existence have never felt more present; flame flickering with an added solemnity. Philosophical musings on art and its inherent transience slips into the narrative with ease as the archaic venture struggles to achieve relevancy. History seeped into stale cigarette smoke curling around the lobby, a worn step to the stage which supported countless masters immaterial in the face of modern demands such as safety precautions. Following on from the unbridled joy that came with Konatsu’s Jugemu performance in the fourth episode comes the franchise’s most challenging storyline yet, each week an emotional strain as the viewer bears witness to tragedy weighing the profession’s self-styled reaper down, a foreboding breeze threatening to blow out that flame ever-present. Kikuhiko becomes even more of an immensely pitiful figure as poignancy suffuses a dramatic reconceptualization of the event which irreversibly altered the course of his and Konatsu’s fates. How telling it is that the past itself becomes yet another story to be told, expressed through an unreliable narrator? Haunting scenery emphasizes the gap between past and present with shots of the home where Sukeroku and Kikuhiko once found joy lapsed into a state of disrepair; a dizzying angle gazing up to the inn where Sukeroku and Miyokichi fell to their deaths saying more than any story possibly could. As darling Matsuda finally breaks down, begging Yota and Higuchi to save everyone’s favourite animated grandfather, I can only desperately hope for the same…
Kuzu no Honkai (#4-7)
Being subjected to brazen delineations on sexuality and emotional intimacy is something of a rarity within an ostensibly sterile medium characterized by saccharine unrealities, rendering Kuzu no Honkai something of a gem to be treasured. Watching this season’s most bittersweet spectacle conjures up those nebulous moments of experimenting with your own nascent sexuality, instilling you with a sense of relief for having long since figured it out (kinda, because do we ever have anything down pat?). Demonstrative of their age however Kuzu’s cast transforms it into the centre of their universe, as tragically exemplified with Hanabi as she bases her self-worth entirely upon a precarious physical foundation which only serves to erode her already fragile self-esteem. Through filling a void where emotional wounds are left festering, as she falls deeper and deeper into visceral relational dynamics I can only hope that she finds a healthier mode of representation before it threatens to consume her like a certain other character…
Hanabi’s painfully adolescent journey of developing a sense of self is a gruelling one to be sure, but it keeps me on the edge of my seat each week in a welcome return to form for noitaminA. The surrounding cast also continue to be magnificently fashioned, Akane in particular whose sexual autonomy is something to be cherished despite its deeply unhealthy connotations, in contrast Sanae displaying an understanding that sex ought to be separated yet nevertheless sustaining damaging emotional fixations. Director Andou Masaomi truly makes the material his own with some gorgeous direction, as was the case with Moka’s elaborate fairy tale stylings in the seventh episode accentuating the convenient fantasy she had been encased in for years as reality mingles with desire, laying waste to it. (Dear industry please give Andou more messy interpersonal relationships like this and White Album 2 to play around with, yours sincerely me.)
March Comes in Like a Lion (#14-17)
“What a fool I am… Can’t even do depression right” – in the midst of Rei’s bleakest depressive episode yet, experiencing hydration due to obsessively pouring over game records with nourishment the last thing on his mind, the viewer can’t help but nervously hope that he’ll rise above that all-consuming tide sooner rather than later. Fixations ever-present, it’s all crawling in on himself in an isolated stairwell with emotions taut as a violin string. Rei is the type of character whose unruly mop you’d want to gently tousle, tell him it will all work out, and thankfully through the smattering of episodes I caught up with last month he does appear to be gingerly taking steps of his own accord towards a more positive frame of existence, gently leaning into the coaxing of those that genuinely care about his well-being. Even beyond the lovable Kawamoto family, he experiences comradery within a delightful sequence in the chemistry club, and newcomer Shimada is a warm presence melting away the thick layer of ice Rei has been sheathed in with his scrappy underdog likability. Sequences between Kyouko and Rei are as heavily weighted with meaning as ever, relationships falling further under strain as they struggle to connect… yet do in other ways, swimming against the emotional current to meet each other halfway. Please don’t go scaring Momo again, Kyouko. ;_;
Little Witch Academia (#4-6)
As one of countless children who grew up reading Harry Potter, Little Witch Academia is an exercise in nostalgia I am content with indulging in each week, whisked off on a broomstick to Luna Nova – Magical High School Anime can be watchable after all, who knew! I found the original OVA charming if unremarkable, but within the series Trigger have provided a novel twist on a familiar premise with the magic Akko so dearly cherishes being reduced to dregs of the previous century threatened to be swept away with the slightest provocation; online investments netting more of a profit than the academy her beloved idol attended. With the institution’s finances in dire straits and outsiders snootily waving it off as an art that will soon be rendered obsolete, an inescapable note of wistfulness pervades what most anticipated would be a mindless romp about witches doing witchy things. How can Akko possibly bring the craft to new heights, in a scientific era where witches and dragons are scorned? As you can tell Little Witch Academia is a show that is refreshingly rooted in the 21st century, a far cry from Jill Murphy’s sweet if isolated snapshots of a past where magic flourished. Exploring fandom politics enhances this modernized quality, along with the burgeoning delight one experiences rushing headfirst into a franchise which is something we have all experienced! Seeing Lotte giddily drifting from cosplayer to cosplayer, night fall trivia spilling from her lips all the while is a heartwarming sequence worth watching.
Kemono Friends (#1-???)
Quite possibly the Mayoiga of anime. Someday, we will reach the baseme- library, and go beyond the post-mobage wasteland while riding a serval-shaped bus alongside serval cat herself. HECKIN’ SUGOIIIII FRIENDO.
Memes aside are we sure that this isn’t a social experiment? Are we, though. hELP.
Michiko to Hatchin (#1-10)
A bad fandom habit which we could all do with kicking is latching on to a single creator, ignoring the rest of the blood, sweat and tears spilled on a production team’s behalf and I will be the first to admit that I am more than guilty of doing just that. Throughout Yuri on Ice’s airing I continuously lavished praise upon one such figure, Kubo Mitsurou. A reasonably prolific mangaka that I only became acquainted with via her work on YoI, devouring her printed oeuvre in a post-episode seven haze led to an appreciation for her unconventional storytelling bent, opting for the unusual whenever possible. Yet I failed to account for the other half of the creative mind which brought us 2016’s most heartfelt offering about defying the odds – Yamamoto Sayo. Despite her extensive and impressive resume she has nevertheless heralded a paltry two series outside of YoI: one of which I had seen while airing yet failed to approach on a critical level (my thesis: OSCAR IS COOL AND GOOD), the other I never even tried. I quickly set about rectifying that, and found myself wondering what on earth took me so long.
Giddily drinking up all the YoI parallels aside, the ten episodes I’ve seen have generously offered a solid means of appreciating Yamamoto’s authorial quirks. Michiko to Hatchin is an immensely rewarding tale about motherhood, poverty, and personal autonomy as told through a distinctly feminine and self-assured lens, highlighting an unconventional mother-daughter relationship through Michiko, an escaped convict, and Hatchin, her sardonic daughter, as they struggle to understand each other across a whirlwind tour beyond the farthest reaches of a fictionalized version of South America. Displays of understated sensuality with the seventh episode conveyed through searing gestures as opposed to words, poverty-stricken desperation and dreams of a better life in the third, a ludicrous reunion in a bull-fighting arena during the sixth… Yamamoto keeps us on her toes through explosive vignettes designed with women unwinding after work in mind.
A Little Princess Sara (#1-4)
Although I briefly touched upon the yuri genre’s inspirations in previous posts, a major aspect I failed to mention was that Yoshiya Nobuku and her contemporaries were simultaneously drawing on a particular mode of western fiction as they fashioned intimate flourishes of girlhood which would eventually develop into what we have today. Hanako Games’ charming albeit rushed A Little Lily Princess posits a distinctly queer bent to Frances Hodgson’s seminal classic A Little Princess, yet given the context it certainly wouldn’t be that much of a stretch to transform Sara Crew’s classmates at Miss Minchin’s Seminary for Girls into romantic two-girl friendship suitors. Recently playing ALLP made me wonder if otaku media had taken to explicitly adapting the work in any form, which inevitably brought me to World Masterpiece Theatre’s 1985 offering A Little Princess Sara. A comparatively rote rendition of the source material, it is nevertheless adorned with girlish trimmings which serve to engross, all charming directorial flourishes highlighting cosy winter landscapes. Sara and her father’s parting is a heart-wrenching affair, orchestrated by a powerful score hinting at the tragedy which soon awaits the ill-fated pair. With proud Miss Minchin it’s all cocked eyebrows and quirked lips, expecting to get the better of the little princess herself. Finally, I’m totally placing the blame on Shirobako for this one, but I’m impressed at how generously animated Tybalt is, his fur ruffling with each frame. Ema would pale at the sight!
Almost two months later and I’m still fawning over Kuzu’s OP whoops.